Selling ice cream a rocky road

Selling ice cream a rocky road

They used to make a living as cabbies, but they now have a cooler job.

Mr Chua Kheng Lee, 52, and his wife, Madam Emily Tan, 58, still drive around the neighbourhood - but in a motorcycle and a van, bringing sweet, cold treats to people wherever they go.

"Ice cream is something both young and old can enjoy," Mr Chua said.

He started selling ice cream in 2003 while his wife continued driving for another two years before she joined him.

When The New Paper visited the duo one afternoon in Bedok, their customers included not only students but maids, parents, the elderly and even deliverymen taking a break from their rounds.

The couple operate near schools and HDB blocks in the area, with Mr Chua on a motorcycle with a sidecar while his wife drives a van.

In order to stay ahead of the competition, they set up a Facebook page in 2012 for their ice cream business.

The couple, who are both not IT-savvy, said a family friend had suggested it to them as a way of improving business. He helps them post updates.

The Uncle Chua Ice Cream Facebook page now has 193 likes.

A trip down Orchard Road helped them decide on a change of job after the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) epidemic in 2003, which had hit both their pockets.

Madam Tan said: "One day, we were sitting in Orchard Road eating ice cream from a roadside vendor when we thought, 'why not try selling ice cream?'"

Although the authorities only grant ice cream seller permits to people above the age of 45, Mr Chua said that he is confident the trade will not die out.

He also shared some secrets of his trade. Contrary to popular belief, the best time to sell ice cream is not when the weather is hot, but after it rains.

"If the weather is hot, people would rather stay in their homes and eat ice cream instead of come down to buy from me," he said.

He works about 10 hours a day, rushing from school to school and even selling his ice cream late into the night.

The couple often work seven days a week. Mr Chua estimated his individual earnings at about $2,500 a month.

Despite the long hours and hard work, he has not considered retiring.

He said: "It's a good form of exercise anyway. My wife and I have passed all our medical check-ups without any problems."

This article was published on April 2 in The New Paper.

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